FOR some, the Bank Holiday weekend has already been more eventful than for others...
For Bradford City and Doncaster Rovers, contrasting emotions abound with City clinching their play-off place in League One following a win at Southend and Rovers all but consigned to the drop following a bitter 3-1 loss at Crewe.
Joy was on the menu for Sheffield Wednesday, who clinched their play-off spot at the expense of Cardiff City, while there was late heartache for Barnsley after Colchester United dramatically levelled deep in stoppage-time in a 2-2 Oakwell draw.
Five observations from the weekend:
1: Sheffield Wednesday can breathe easy.
The Owls’ place at the end-of-season jamboree is rubber-stamped following a 3-0 victory in a front of a bumper Hillsborough crowd against Cardiff, justifiable reward for the club’s pronounced upturn under Carlos Carvalhal, whose first season in English football has been a noteworthy one.
With strong squad options at his disposal, the Owls head coach can elect to rotate and rest key players at Molineux ahead of the key business of a home play-off semi-final first leg on Friday week against probably Middlesbrough or Brighton, one of whom will be more than likely be seriously deflated after missing out on automatic promotion next weekend.
For the minute, Wednesdayites can just savour the next few days.
2: Leeds United: A bit of a familiar story.
The curtain is close to being pulled down on another disappointing campaign for Leeds, with off-the-field headlines having taken pre-eminence over pitch concerns. Again.
That said, Saturday represented a final chance on home soil this season for Steve Evans to lay down his claims to be sticking around at Leeds, in front of a crowd of over 25,000. For a nothing game, an excellent attendance, but for Evans, it was a wholly unsatisfactory outcome.
A home loss to Charlton was not what the doctor ordered in another season where Leeds’ home form has been fitful and they have failed to claim a victory in their final home appointment of the season for the past five campaigns.
Another largely forgettable season at Elland Road.
3: Barnsley. A sting in the tale.
After their last-gasp win in their previous home outing with Peterborough, Barnsley suffered the flip side of the coin with Colchester’s Tom Lapslie netting a dramatic leveller deep into stoppage time in Saturday’s 2-2 draw. Eight minutes to be precise...
It represented a hammer blow to the Reds, who are ahead of Scunthorpe only on goal difference ahead of a tough-looking final day appointment at Wigan - the Iron visit Sheffield United, managed by former chief Nigel Adkins, with Barnsley desperate for the Blades to do them a favour.
The character that the Reds have shown in their remarkable post-Christmas run will need to be displayed again.
No time for recriminations also - given this season’s context, for Barnsley to be in the play-off participation on the final day still represents a wonderful achievement, as Paul Heckingbottom has been quick to point out.
4: Bradford City. Plaudits deserving, as City book their top-six berth with a game to spare.
Lee Evans’s strike saw City, roared on by a impressive following of just over 1,500, claim the win that they needed to rubber-stamp play-off participation with a 1-0 win at Southend - Phil Parkinson’s side will finish no lower than fifth.
Crucially, after last weekend’s thrashing of Walsall, City now have momentum ahead of their play-off jaunt, with a final-day of the season against Chesterfield coming before that to wrap up the regular campaign.
Thankfully, City will be denied a potentially edgy, tense final-day and for that Parkinson and supporters will be thoroughly grateful.
5: Doncaster Rovers. Rover and out.
On a day when a victory would have kept them alive in the survival race, Rovers reverted to old habits, with their limp second-half performance at Crewe en route to a 3-1 loss to a relegated side who had won once since November 28 showing exactly why they will be playing League Two football next term.
Rovers’ inability to manage game situations and handle adversity was again evident, as it was in that bewildering 17-match winless sequence in all competitions from January 2 to April 16, which is the ultimate reason why they will be playing in the bottom rung of the Football League for the first time since 2003-04 next season.
Darren Ferguson’s side never recovered after conceding a disastrous leveller just before the break at Crewe and can have no excuses for their relegation, which has been self-inflicted.
The character and mindset of Rovers players needs to be massively changed next season.
Relegation will be mathematically confirmed if Fleetwood draw at Walsall on Bank Holiday Monday but given the Lancastrians’ big goal difference advantage, it is pretty much game over already.